I wish it was otherwise, but unfortunately this turned out a disaster for me. When I saw the challenge initially, I had fabulous plans for a whole range of beautiful little jocondes, filled with an array of ice creams, mousses, creams and fruit. Of course, as I normally do, I dawdled too long, and didn't have any time left to do half of what I planned. Then a heat wave struck Melbourne, and it was so stinking hot, I couldn't turn on the oven. The problem is my oven. Apart from being super tiny, it's thermostat dial has fictional numbers on it. I have a separate thermometer inside, but usually it takes me at least an hour's fiddling with the stupid knob to get the temperature where I want it to be. And in this heat, having a hot oven blasting for hours on end wasn't an option.
Cute little flower and dots
At the same time I had a sneaking suspicion that the challenge might not turn out the way I want it to. I've read other people's versions, and if they were having trouble, I knew I definitely would. And I was really reluctant to give up one of my Saturdays for something that might not even work. (The Fabulous Man takes our Little Girl out for the day so I can at least have a shower in peace). But I did it anyway. And maybe I brought it on myself, but I was right. It was a disaster. Not the joconde bit, mind you. That turned out almost as good as I wanted. It was the inside bit. I decided to make life easy for myself and just make a simple chocolate mousse. The recipe I chose was Nigella's from Domestic Goddess. You know the one which is actually a cake, but she says if you want a mousse chill it instead of bake it? Unfortunately this did not work our for me at all. It was one big mess. It didn't set very well, and when I unmoulded my joconde, it all collapsed in one big sorry-looking puddle. It didn't even taste nice. Horrible gooey texture, tasting suspiciously like raw cake batter. I'll try the joconde recipe again soon and try to make it right, because it looks fabulous. This is not over.
Batter poured over design
Then I looked at the date yesterday, and realised that my blog is one year old! I felt I had to postpone my post about my disastrous jocone, and make something nice for the anniversary. Something nice, and something that cannot possibly fail. You see, for some reason, I have had a lot of mishaps in the kitchen recently. I'm not entirely sure what's happening, but I have obviously lost my cooking mojo. Not that I've ever been great, contrary to my lovely little nephew's opinion. His mum told me that he thought I should definitely enter Masterchef, and would it be okay if they give me my welcome home party when I leave the competition? But then added that it probably won't be necessary, because I will obviously win the competition. Don't you just love the ignorance of kids? I recently saw one of the Junior Masterchef episodes, and I'm telling you, there are 8 year olds who can cook me under the table.
Fresh from the oven
So, considering the fact that these days I do well if I make Nutella toast without burning the toast, I decided to stick with my Daring Bakers disaster for my anniversary post. Because I think this is the best example of my cooking at the moment. I have lofty ideals and grand plans, but they seldom work out. Mostly I buy my food at the supermarket and cook something super easy for dinner. But, hopefully, I will get better, and the disasters will get less and less. It's a work in progress.
Patterned Joconde-Décor Paste
This amount of paste is a lot, so I suggest you make half the amount, at most.
200g unsalted butter, softened
200g Confectioners' (icing) sugar
7 large egg whites - about 200g
220g cake flour
Food coloring gel, paste or liquid
COCOA Décor Paste Variation: Reduce cake flour to 170g. Add 60 g cocoa powder. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together before adding to creamed mixture.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (use stand mixer with blade, hand held mixer, or by hand)
Gradually add egg whites. Beat continuously.
Fold in sifted flour.
Tint batter with coloring to desired color, if not making cocoa variation.
Spread a thin even layer of décor paste approximately 5 mm thick onto silicone baking mat with a spatula, or flat knife. Place mat on an upside down baking sheet. The upside down sheet makes spreading easier with no lip from the pan. (I wasn't sure that it was completely necessary to turn the sheet upside down)
Pattern the décor paste – Here is where you can be creative. Make horizontal /vertical lines (you can use a knife, spatula, cake/pastry comb). Squiggles with your fingers, zig zags, wood grains. Be creative whatever you have at home to make a design can be used. OR use a piping bag. Pipe letters, or polka dots, or a piped design. If you do not have a piping bag. Fill a ziplock bag and snip off corner for a homemade version of one.
Slide the baking sheet with paste into the freezer. Freeze hard. Approx 15 minutes.
85g almond flour/meal - *You can also use hazelnut flour, just omit the butter
75g confectioners' (icing) sugar
25g cake flour
3 large eggs - about 150g
3 large egg whites - about 90g
10g white granulated sugar or superfine (caster) sugar
30g unsalted butter, melted
In a clean mixing bowl whip the egg whites and white granulated sugar to firm, glossy peeks. Reserve in a separate clean bowl to use later.
Sift almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, cake flour. (This can be done into your dirty egg white bowl)
On medium speed, add the eggs a little at a time. Mix well after each addition. Mix until smooth and light. (If using a stand mixer use blade attachment. If hand held a whisk attachment is fine, or by hand. )
Fold in one third reserved whipped egg whites to almond mixture to lighten the batter. Fold in remaining whipped egg whites. Do not over mix.
Fold in melted butter.
Remove the decor paste from freezer. Quickly pour the Joconde batter over the design. Spread evenly to completely cover the pattern of the Décor paste.
Bake at 475ºF /250ºC until the joconde bounces back when slightly pressed, approx. 15 minutes. You can bake it as is on the upside down pan. Yes, it is a very quick bake, so watch carefully. (I baked mine for 7 monutes at 230ºC)
Cool. Do not leave too long, or you will have difficulty removing it from mat.
Flip cooled cake on to a powdered sugared parchment paper. Remove silpat. Cake should be right side up, and pattern showing! (The powdered sugar helps the cake from sticking when cutting.)
Line the sides and base of your lined mould, and fill with your chosen filling.